Thursday, May 19, 2011

Week O'Mama's: Calamity Jane

You know those women who write about motherhood so well that it seems they have gotten inside your head and coalesced your mushy, sleep-deprived thoughts into snappy, clear realisations? Those women who make you think 'what she said' with everything they write, when you're not shouting 'Testify, sister-mama! Can I get a WITNESS!'

I've got one of them for you today. I'm so pleased to introduce you to Calamity Jane who blogs at Apron Stringz. She's a writing, homesteading, wisecrackin' mama-of-two. She is such a star! And here she is:

Who are your small people?

My first born will be four in July. She is a sweet, sassy little package of firecracker. She's headstrong, independent, passionate, quick as a whip-- everything I always look for in a friend, though it's a bit challenging on a kid. My little guy is about one and a half. He is the boy version of his big sis. Firecracker #2. His first and second words were, respectively, 'ball' and 'truck.' (as a point of reference, one of #1's firsts was 'walrus')

Perhaps an impossible question to address in 25 words or less, but how do you think motherhood has changed you as a person?

More than anything else, motherhood has humbled me. I used to be very sharp, judgmental. Motherhood has softened me, stretched me. I have patience in reserves I wouldn't have been able to conceive of pre-kids. It has taught me to be flexible, to loose the reigns of control. To let go of my Ego, submit to the moment. Which makes it all sounds so lovely-- motherhood, my beneficent teacher. In truth what it often felt like was more of an enormous punch in the gut. It's easy to get down on your knees when you can't breathe.

How do you think blogging impacts on your parenting?

Sadly, I'm not sure this is a positive relationship. It's hard to say. My writing definitely detracts from everything I just said parenting teaches me. Blogging brings it right back to MeMeMe. It takes my time away from my kids and house and projects, but even more it takes my mind and energy away. It interrupts my submission by giving me something I'm almost addicted to getting away from the kids to do.

On the other hand, maybe some mamas can healthily submit to mothering entirely, but I know I couldn't. I would slowly stew in my own poison. I need something else, something that feels productive, that excersizes my brain which otherwise kind of attrophes during this whole mothering gig. Writing has turned out to be a need for me, it feels very healthy.

On the third hand, I do think blogging in particular is not entirely helpful, because of it's addictive, ever possible nature. There's always just a little more to be done/found on the internet. It's much harder for me to excersize self-control on the computer than with a book or pen and paper.

What are your most joyful times with the kids?

I think playing is boring. Which, as a mom is almost like admitting you're a nazi. I just can't get into the endless pretend, and although I enjoy rough-housing for about 2 minutes, then I'm tired. But I think I live my life playfully, even though I don't out and out play. I'm good at those things like stopping to smell the flowers, and jump in puddles. But, my happiest mama moments are when we are doing something grown-up together. When my patience is at a high, and I am letting the kidlets "help" with a project. They both "helped" me make the toddler stool I posted about a few months ago, and it was awesome. Kids need kid play, but they also adore to do whatever the grown-ups are doing. So when I am able to move slowly and patiently, and involve them, they are so happy. And I get to watch their intent concentration, their little brains sucking everything up like hungry sponges, which I love more than almost anything else.

How do you manage the frustration of life with tiny people?

Hmmm. Do I manage it? The jury is still out. One principle I've found extremely helpful in all aspects of parenting is addressing the cause rather than the symptom. I try to identify what makes me a more patient balanced person, in general, because that will make me a better mama. I know some mamas who need excersize. They are just better mamas if they force themselves to make the extra effort to do it. For me, it's mental excersize. Having time alone to think, read or write simply makes me a better mama. It took a miniature nervous breakdown for me to learn to ask for what I need. Which is regular, reliable time to do my own thing. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, but it needs to be clear cut and pre-determined. We started doing saturday afternoons. I get 5 or 6 hours to do whatever my heart desires. It is so incredibly good for me, and therefore for our family. "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Do not underestimate that!

The other thing is submission. So much of my struggling is pointless and un-productive. When I just buckle down and do a thing, it takes so much less energy than fighting the idea of it. A few months back I started picking up my daughter's room just before bedtime. This sounds simple, right? But I fought the idea of daily pick-up until she was 3 1/2!!! Why pick it up? I asked myself, she was just going to throw it all on the floor again tomorrow. She can learn to pick up her own goddamn room. I'm not a maid.

Then finally I just decided that a clean-ish room, at some point in the day, was important to me. To me. So I'd better just do it and quit bitching. And I did. It takes me about 3 minutes to pick up her room. It's part of our bedtime routine now while she hedges about which pajamas to wear. I tell her I'm making her room all clean so it will be fresh and ready for a new mess in the morning.

One family story that you love to tell?

I can't think of any one great family story. But here's a little anecdote about my 3YO. The kids were in the bath and she said she was pretending to be a hippopotamus. 'Oh,' I said, 'good thinking, because hippopotamuses live in water.' She was quiet for a minute, the wheels turning. Then she said carefully,

'Well... Hippopotamuses don't actually live in the water. They just get in the water to cool off.'


  1. I just got whip lash from nodding so hard. HILARIOUSLY a friend and I who do not like "playing" with the smalls said on the weekend , its like saying you are a nazi sympathiser. I like taking her to do stuff, i like taking her to swimming lesson and watching or ballet and watching or taking her on cool holidays or to the beach. But the words Mummy will you play with me ... in my mind i think to myself " do i have too???" I have found i can do , if I am in the mood, I can do 15 mins. i will time it and make myself do it, or I will suggest reading a book.

    I can't submit to mothering either, not wholly- I fight against it... I think this is why I only have one and also why I think I am not good at it.

    Bloody marvellous interview MsMogantosh. xx

  2. and could you link to this new favourite blog- there seems to be a few calamity jane blogs?? x

  3. OK, linked up now Cath. And I LOVE how she writes about playing too. Ditch the guilt and remember that you live a playful life instead....brilliance.

  4. i see what you mean. aha aha ahaing along too. so many wise words. and sharp and sassy too. thanks for the intro R.

  5. I was nodding in agreement the whole time I was reading this. if mama ain't happy, nobody is happy. your description of your daughter is very similar to mine. every single day she takes out ALL her clothes out of the drawers, deciding which pants and shirt will be the right fit. and every night i picked them all up. Hubby tells me why pick it up if she will make a big mess tomorrow? I say because it offers her an opportunity to be creative and (I can't stand walking into a messy room.LOL)!!

  6. I read with great care the paragraph about how blogging affects parenting. It is so true.

  7. Calamity Jane is just lovely and I've never met her before. Her thoughts on most things are echoed by me. Thanks so much for the intro!! x

  8. Love your work, CJ, and am looking forward to reading more of this blog now too!

  9. Made my way from Apron Stringz. Big fan of CJs writing, thanks for this interview. Happy to have found your site!

  10. oh my gosh it is like you are speaking me!!! I so enjoy Apron STrings. The honesty and the same feelings I have... MAkes me feel more normal than mean (ie playing...) AHMEN to you!!!


Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.